9 June, 2020Indian unions are intensifying their struggle against Modi government’s failure to protect workers’ interests during the Covid-19 lockdown and its aggressive attacks on workers’ rights. A day of non-cooperation is announced for 3 July.
In a statement on 5 June India’s central trade unions expressed discontent as Modi’s government has failed to ensure payment of wages for a large number of workers and to stop retrenchments during the lockdown.
The government’s indifference towards social dialogue with unions and its disregard of measures suggested by unions to protect workers has had a severe impact on workers.
The unions are demanding:
- A cash transfer of Rs. 7500 (US$ 99,5) to all households below the income tax level for April, May and June
- Wages for workers at medium, small and micro enterprises paid for the same months
- Universal food distribution to all working people for at least six months
- Safe journey for millions of migrant workers
It is estimated that around 240 million workers have lost their livelihood. Although factories are restarting operations, many are taking on fewer workers and reducing their wages.
The ILO has warned that about 400 million people might be pushed into deeper poverty. Unions are demanding increased support for the rural employment scheme to create employment opportunities for the millions of migrant workers who have returned to their villages, and for similar schemes to in urban areas as well.
The government has used the pandemic to introduce anti-worker labour law changes, and to announce corporate friendly policy measures including privatization of public sector enterprises (PSEs), many of which serve critical national interests, public purpose and were established with enormous public fund. The announcement also included decisions to the pay benefits for 4.8 million central government employees and 6.8 million pensioners.
Unions underline that the government’s US$265 billion stimulus package is a cruel joke on working people. The actual relief package is paltry and a major chunk of the amount consists of loan guarantees to various sectors.
Dr. G Sanjeeva Reddy, president of Indian National Trade Union Congress and IndustriALL Executive Committee member, says:
“The government’s insensitive handling of the lockdown and its anti-worker policy announcements show that it does not respect workers’ rights and does not deserve the cooperation of working people. The inaction has caused untold misery to millions of workers.
“After the massive countrywide protest on 22 May, we are now intensifying our protests with a call for non-cooperation on 3 July to ensure that the government address our demands.”
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, says:
“We are concerned that the Modi government is taking advantage of the pandemic to attack workers’ rights and the anti-worker labour law changes must be withdrawn. The government should take urgent steps to protect the livelihood of millions of workers and engage in genuine social dialogue with the unions for solutions.
“IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the Indian union movement and will take international solidarity actions to support their efforts.”
The Non-Cooperation movement, with the Gandhian method of non-violent protest, is a milestone in India’s independence struggle. It was launched against the reforms of colonial rulers with the demand for India’s self-government in 1920.
Central unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC and a large number of federations and associations will participate on 3 July.